By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (March 04, 2023) -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III today embarked on a multiday trip to meet with civil and military leaders in the Middle East -- including those in Jordan, Egypt and Israel -- to reenforce the U.S. commitment to partnerships and security in the region.
"Secretary Austin will convey enduring U.S. commitment to the Middle East and provide reassurance to our partners that the United States remains committed to supporting their defense and increasing and strengthening the strategic partnerships with each of these countries," said a senior defense official in advance of the trip.
That same official said that while in talks in the Middle East, the secretary will convey his belief and that of the Defense Department that the best path for sustainable and effective security in the Middle East is through integration and multilateral security cooperation among partners.
"Secretary Austin will talk about, with each partner, the tremendous opportunities that we have because of cutting-edge innovation, emerging technology, shared assessments of what the threats are facing our partners in the region, [and] that now is the time to improve collective and shared defense," the official said.
Some areas for collaboration include integrated air and missile defense, maritime security, intelligence sharing and early warning systems.
"This is important not only the for the security of the citizens of the region, the territory and the defense of our partners, but also obviously sends a strong strategic signal of our commitment to each other and to regional security and stability," the official said.
Also central to discussion will be the "full constellation of Iran-associated threats," the official said. Those threats include Iran's arming, training and funding of violent proxy groups, aggression at sea, cyber threats, it's ballistic missile program and drone attacks.
"Every partner [in] every capital you visit in the Middle East will talk about their concerns related to all of these threats," the official said, and Austin will consult with those partners on how those threats can be pushed back and undermined.
The official also said that while in the Middle East, the secretary will discuss a topic he now discusses with every partner and ally: the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In the Middle East, specifically, that includes the risks to regional security resulting from increased military cooperation between Iran and Russia, which is now using weapons provided by Iran to kill Ukrainian civilians.
That cooperation, the official said, "eventually will come back with significant and negative security consequences for the Middle East."
During the visit to Egypt and Jordan, the official said, Austin is expected to highlight those nations' leadership roles in facilitating integrated deterrence.
"In Israel, he will reaffirm his ironclad commitment to Israel['s] security, and Israel's inherent right to self-defense," the official said. "He'll also be quite frank with Israeli leaders about his concerns regarding the cycle of violence in the West Bank and consult on what steps Israeli leaders can take to meaningfully restore calm before the upcoming holidays."